Michael Meads: Bent, Not Broken - Ogden Museum of Art

Born in Anniston, Alabama, New Orleans held a deep allure to Meads from an early age. “When I was a boy I remember my father listening to the radio broadcasts of a ‘hellfire and brimstone’ Baptist minister preaching from Bourbon Street. Even at that young age I knew there was something about New Orleans that was enticingly forbidden as my father would warn me repeatedly to never go to that wicked city,” he recalls. He moved with his partner, Charles Canada, to the Crescent City in 1998, deepening a relationship with a place that serves as setting, character and muse for much of his work. In August of 2005, the floodwaters from the breach of the Federal Levee System in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina filled the first floor of his home and studio. Much of his life’s work was destroyed. Choosing the arid, isolated environment of the New Mexican High Desert as a place to heal, Meads and Canada bought an adobe house in Abiquiu and built a studio in 2009.

Bent, Not Broken, will focus on the massive graphite drawings created post-Katrina. In these drawings, Meads creates a magical world (much like Carnival itself) where valkyries and Roman gods mingle with frat boys and firemen. Plague doctors and Pulcinella roam the streets of the Vieux Carre, and winged putti struggle to support the crumbling edifices of historic architecture. With a masterful hand, Meads creates a graphite opera – complete with proscenium arch – where each work is a complex visual libretto. With pencil and paper, Meads tells the story of New Orleans – the storm, the oil spill, the HIV epidemic, tourism, history, gentrification and demographic shift – all through the lens of Carnival. This body of work is both celebration and cautionary tale. It is both deeply personal and universal.

This exhibition will also include photography, paintings and drawings from throughout Meads’ career, with a focus on the large narrative drawings created since his displacement from New Orleans. Michael Meads is a painter, draftsman and photographer whose work expresses a personal narrative filtered through the lens of classical themes. He received a Bachelor of Fine Art from Auburn University (1987) and a Master of Fine Arts from State University of New York at Albany (1991). His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

More information on this and other Ogden exhibits can be found on the museum’s website.

Pictured: Ghosts Along the Levee: The Senior’s Mardi Gras Parade at Holy Cross School for Boys (2013), Michael Meads

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